SAGE ADVICE ON RECIPES THAT WERE MINT TO BE
If you enjoy food but have not yet fully explored the world of fresh herbs, you are in for a treat! Most of them are easy to grow in a patio pot or backyard garden. So, throw out those old jars of bland, dried herbs in your spice cabinet, plant your own, and get ready to infuse your cooking with supercharged flavors! (For easy, herb gardening how-to tips, flip to page 57.)
My favorite way to cook with herbs is to make them the star of the dish—from salmon with lots of freshly cut dill to an ice cold Mojito with bright green mint that you can smell as much as taste! On the next few pages, learn how to create some of my favorite herb-inspired recipes that will wow your family and friends.
Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter
One flavorful, easy-to-grow herb is sage. Sage is a cousin of mint and has been grown and used since ancient times for medicinal purposes. My hands-down, favorite application is in a Sage Brown Butter, served over Butternut Squash Ravioli. The subtle sweetness of roasted squash and nutmeg spice combined with the rich aroma of sage butter makes for a very understated, yet unforgettable meal.
Make Some Easy Dough
To many, the idea of handmade pasta is too intimidating, but here’s a secret—it’s super easy! All you need is three common ingredients and some elbow grease.
2 cups all-purpose flour (I like the King Arthur brand)
3 eggs (farm fresh, please!)
1 teaspoon salt (Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt will change your life)
Mix the flour and salt together. On a baking board or (very) clean countertop, make a mound of flour with a hole in the middle—sort of like a volcano. Crack the eggs into the “crater” without letting any spill over the walls. Using a regular fork, start whisking the eggs and gradually incorporate more and more flour until it becomes a thick batter-like consistency. With your (very) clean hands, keep mixing and eventually folding in the dough. Keep folding until the dough is very firm and you have incorporated most, if not all, of the flour. Shape into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for 30 minutes or more.
Create My Favorite Filling
The filling for your ravioli can be as simple or as complicated as you like, but the foundation is a butternut squash puree. Here’s how you make it:
Find a nice looking, medium-sized butternut squash at your local grocer or farmer’s market, where they are typically available during late summer or early fall. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Using a regular potato peeler, peel the whole squash. Cut off the top and bottom and then cut into half-inch cubes and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Roast in the middle of your oven for 25-30 minutes, or until soft. Puree in food mill or for a few seconds in a blender or food processor. Set aside 1 cup for the filling (recipe below) and freeze the rest.
1 cup butternut squash puree (see instructions above)
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 shallot or small yellow onion
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream or half and half
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated)
Salt and pepper to taste
Eggwash: 1 egg + 1 tablespoon water
Over medium heat, melt butter in a saucepan. Chop the shallot very finely and sauté in the butter until translucent. Add the puree, parmesan, cream and nutmeg and cook for a minute. The goal is to have a mixture that is fairly dry so keep stirring over medium heat a couple minutes if necessary. Set aside.
Assemble The Ravioli
Making ravioli is fairly effortless if you own a basic pasta roller ($20 at Home Depot or Amazon), but a regular rolling pin will do just fine. I strongly advise against the over-priced electric varieties or the expensive stand-mixer attachments unless you plan to make pasta daily—or for large crowds.
To make the pasta sheet, take a quarter of the pasta disc that’s resting in your fridge and roll out to a 6×18 rectangle. If you’re using a pasta roller, you should not go thinner than setting #2. If you’re using a rolling pin, roll it as thin as you can. Cut the pasta sheet into 3×6 rectangles and place about a heaping teaspoon of filling on one side of the rectangle. Using a pastry brush, paint eggwash along the edge of the rectangle, fold the side over, and crimp lightly with a fork, creating a sealed 3×3 ravioli “pillow.”
Whip Up The Sauce
1 stick salted butter (make sure it’s good quality, preferably grass-fed)
10-15 sage leaves, julienned or chopped (must be fresh)
Melt the butter in a stainless saucepan or skillet. Add the sage leaves and cook over medium heat just until the butter starts turning golden brown.
Serve And Enjoy
Finish the ravioli right before serving by dropping carefully into boiling water for about two minutes. Serve 4-6 ravioli per plate and spoon over the sage butter. Top it off by sprinkling some chopped sage leaves on top, along with parmesan cheese and a dash of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.
Tarragon Potato Salad
Tarragon is a mild yet distinct herb commonly used in
French cooking. I think it tastes like spring! Its flavor works
great in chicken salad, deviled eggs—or, like here,
paired with dill in this creamy potato salad:
Ingredients (serves 6)
2 pounds medium yellow potatoes, such as Yukon Gold
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves, minced
2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Scrub potatoes lightly to clean and place in a large saucepan. Add enough clean, cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until tender and still a bit firm. Drain in a colander. Cover with a towel and let potatoes rest for 10 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes and cut into half-inch cubes.
In a mixing bowl, combine all remaining ingredients with potatoes and mix carefully. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and any leftover tarragon. Serve at room temperature.
Mojito with Fresh Mint
In my experience, mint is the easiest of all herbs to grow. In fact, it may be a bit too easy because it spreads quickly and, left unattended, may take over your garden! But if you like to mix your own drinks, that may not be such a bad thing.
The mixed drink Mojito is what the word “refreshing” tastes like—and mint has a lot to do with it. This traditional Cuban beverage is the perfect combination of sour, sweet and fresh… and is easy to make at home. A word of warning: The fresh flavors mask the taste of alcohol very well— so sip slowly!
2 cups of good, clean ice
6 ounces light rum
10-12 leaves of your
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
4 tablespoons regular, white sugar
Sparkling water or club soda
A few slices of lime and a sprig of mint for decoration
Pour a half cup of ice into a highball (tall and skinny) glass and set aside. Place the mint leaves and the sugar in your favorite beverage shaker. Using a muddler, crush the mint into the sugar with a twisting motion. Once the mint and sugar reaches a paste-like consistency, add the lime juice, rum, a handful of ice—and shake that shaker! Add a splash of sparkling water to your shaker and strain into a highball (tall and skinny) glass filled 1/3 with ice. Decorate with lime slices and a sprig of mint. Enjoy responsibly!